A swampy, mosquito infested, marshy island off the west coast of India with little or no potential, or so thought the Portuguese when they gave it to Charles II of England as part of the dowry of Catherine of Braganza. How very stupid of them! The British East India Company leased it from the Crown, and developed the small fishing villages and natural harbours into the subcontinent’s busiest port and the region’s centre for trade, finance and industry.

Maharashtra’s capital, Mumbai, wears several hats or should we say crowns? India’s largest city, commercial capital, industrial powerhouse, busiest port, fashion capital, ‘Bollywood’ (India’s Hollywood), world’s biggest textiles market – the list goes on and on. The city thrives on contrasts; it is home to the richest and the poorest, sleek limousines jostle cycles, red double-decker buses and three-wheeler auto-rickshaws; impressive high rises soar above crowded ugly slums and shanty towns; glitzy shop fronts amid pavement stalls; glamorous film stars and homeless beggars attract attention at traffic lights and amidst all this are people, people, people everywhere, for Mumbai is home to some 13 million Indians.

Like a giant magnet it draws people from all walks of life - traders and artisans, musicians and movie stars, peasants and industrialists, entrepreneurs and executives, students and dropouts. In fact, any Indian with a dream heads for Mumbai and this pulsating, cosmopolitan, multicultural city of opportunity folds them all to its bosom. Mumbai is like little bits of India all rolled into one. So, don’t just pass through as you head for Rajasthan or Goa, but stay a while to explore its sights and soul – a heady experience awaits you.

How to Reach Mumbai?

By Air : Mumbai’s international terminus is the Sahar International Airport, 30 km from the city centre of Nariman Point and 4km from the domestic terminus at Santa Cruz. Most of the international airlines fly into Mumbai and connect it with major national and international destinations. Both terminals have facilities like foreign exchange bureaus, duty free shops, restaurants, left luggage sheds and tourist offices. Travelling into the city is made convenient by the easy availability of prepaid taxis, rented cars, airport-city shuttle bus services and auto rickshaws. Pick up service by hotels you are booked in can also be availed of.

By Rail : Mumbai is the headquarters for both Western & Central Railways sectors of the behemoth Indian Railways. An enormous network of regular train services connects the city via superfast, express and passenger trains with all major towns and cities in India, including Delhi, Calcutta, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore. The Victoria Terminus and Bombay Central Station, the two main railway stations in Mumbai form the hub of Western Railways, tickets and reservations as well as train schedules and other information can be gotten here.

By Road : Good motorable roads connect Mumbai to all major cities, small towns and tourist centres in the state –Pune (163 km), Aurangabad (392 km), Nashik (184 km), Mahabaleshwar (239 km) and to the towns and cities of the neighbouring states of Goa - Panaji (597 km), Gujarat - Ahmedabad (545 km) and Vadodara (432 km) and Andhra Pradesh. Traffic is fairly heavy but disciplined. Interstate roadways buses and private operators run every kind of bus from luxury coaches to ramshackle rattletraps. Car rental companies will usually provide chauffeur driven vehicles; traffic drives on the right hand side and while ideally you should have an international driving license, your local license will do for stays under six months.

Best Time to Visit Mumbai

The best time to visit Mumbai is the months between September and April as the rains have finished playing havoc with the city’s drainage system and the humidity levels are at their lowest. Actually, visitors come across to Mumbai all and any time of the year, though summer months tend to be enervating and hot, making sight seeing not very pleasant, but if you are planning a business trip and will stay indoors in air conditioned comfort, then summer, winter, rain or shine, the weather doesn’t matter.

Things to do in Mumbai

Mumbai – the capital city of Maharashtra offers a wide variety of things to do and see. Take a trip to various museums or head to Elephanta Island. Indulge in shopping at the various busy markets of Mumbai or go caving in Sanjay Gandhi National Park near Mumbai. Gorge into variety of cuisines as you let the financial capital of India cast its spell on you through its sights, scents, and colours.

Places Near Mumbai

There are many tourist places around Mumbai.

Sanjay Gandhi National Park 42 kms to the north of the city was once known as the Borivili National Park. Highlights of a trip here are the Kanheri Caves - a cluster of 109 rock-cut caves, dating back to the 2nd to 9th centuries. The huge Chaitya Hall (Buddhist Hall of Worship), with its long colonnade of pillars and 5-meter high stupa at the back, is the grandest of all. The Lion Safari is an attraction for the visitors though its small number of animals, which includes tigers, leopards, panthers and deer, are under severe threat from encroachment and urbanisation.

You can also visit Alibag that lies 108 kms from Mumbai and makes for a relaxed weekend getaway to the beach. Check out the twin hill stations Lonavala & Khandala some 100 kms away in the Western Ghats. These hill stations make a perfect weekend break from big city life.

Hotels in Mumbai – Choice is Yours

There are numerous hotels in Mumbai ranging from 3-star, 4-star and 5-star deluxe to budget hotels.